Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
The former president Hamid Karzai calls the current situation alarming and says it is a consequence of US policies and the US’s insulting and divisive treatment towards the people of Afghanistan.
Karzai declared that the proof of his claim can be seen in the statement by the US State Dept about the twin inauguration ceremonies in Kabul.
“The US could have prevented divisions and political instability by making constructive and on-time moves ahead of the inauguration ceremonies if it was sincerely seeking an end to the crisis,” Karzai said in a statement.
“In all my meetings with US officials in recent months, especially with US special envoy (Zalmay Khalilzad), I expressed my deep concern about the lack of sincerity and transparency in the US’s policies regarding moving the election process forward and parts of the peace process,” Karzai says in the statement.
Referring to his meetings with US officials, Karzai said: “I have reiterated that the election and peace should result in strengthening national unity and stability in the country and in the establishment of a legitimate and powerful national government.”
Karzai added that under the current situation, there is a need for unity among Afghans so that they “foil plots” from abroad.
This comes as the US Department of State in a statement said it opposes any efforts to create a parallel government in Afghanistan.
“We strongly oppose any action to establish a parallel government, and any use of force to resolve political differences,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.
The Ministry of Higher Education (MoHE) says at least 106 MoUs have been processed with the regional and overseas universities to improving the quality of higher education in Afghanistan.
“In the day shift, the MoHE has preparations to attract 2600 fresh students after the Kankor entrance exam in 1399 for bachelor’s degree. In the night shift of bachelor’s program, a total of 36 programs in the year 1398 have been established, which provides the opportunity to attract 1800 students in 1399 at the public higher education institutions,” said the minister of higher education, Abul Tawab Bala Karzai at the State Accountability to the Nation Program on Tuesday.
Afghanistan Telecom Regulatory Authority (ATRA) has fined five telecom companies due to poor quality of telecom services.
“There are about 22.4 million active SIMs in the country, the number of telecom companies’ sites reaches 7072, about 90% of the country’s population is under telecom services coverage, and total investment in the telecom sector has reached AFN 183 billion,” said Omer Mansour Ansari, acting chairman of ATRA, speaking at the State Accountability Program to the Nation held at the GMIC on Tuesday, adding that “there are five telecom companies in the country that provides telecom services to the nation”.
ATRA says that the high cost of operating costs compared to other countries; Afghanistan’s landlocked geography and lack of fiber optic networks to the fiber optic submarine; destruction of telecom sites and cutting fiber-optic due to security issues and high custom fees, paying huge costs for the protection and maintenance of towers, and the use of generators due to the lack of electricity, are the main reasons for not reducing the tariffs.
The Taliban has sent vehicles for fighters set to be released by the Afghan government in a prisoner swap expected to be announced on Tuesday, Reuters reports.
They movement was also ready to honor their side of the deal by handing over 1,000 captured government troops, according to the group.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani will issue a decree for at least 1,000 Taliban prisoners to be released this week, reports said on Monday, paving the way for opening direct talks between the Afghan government and Taliban insurgents.
A senior Taliban leader in Doha, the capital of Qatar where negotiations between the militants and US officials have taken place, was cited as saying that vehicles had been sent to an area near Bagram Prison to fetch the freed fighters.
The prisoner release is part of a deal signed by Washington and the Taliban last month that allows US forces and NATO troops to withdraw from Afghanistan to end more than 18 years of war.
Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday that Afghan people should decide on their country’s future by themselves.
Calling on all parties in the country to accelerate the process of peace reconstruction, spokesperson Geng Shuang said China is willing to work with the new government of Afghanistan to develop friendly relations between the two countries.
“The current situation in Afghanistan is at a critical period. It faces precious opportunities to end the 40-year-long war and also faces challenges,” Geng said.
Ashraf Ghani was sworn in for a second term on Monday but his main rival for the top job refused to recognize the inauguration, holding a parallel swearing-in ceremony as “rival president.”
“We hope the international community can respect the will of the Afghan people and call for an orderly withdrawal of foreign troops to ensure a smooth transition of the situation and prevent terrorist organizations from creating disturbance,” added Geng.
IOM Afghanistan, in partnership with the Afghanistan National Disaster Management Authority (ANDMA), today signed an agreement with the Government of Japan launching the project, “Enhancing disaster prevention by improving Irrigation and water resource management at the community level,” with a total amount of approximately 9 million USD (984 Million Japanese Yen).
The project will mitigate the impact of natural disasters on vulnerable communities, and provide technical support to enhance ANDMA’s response when natural disasters strike.
The three-year project from 2020-2022, funded by the Government of Japan, aims to reduce the risks posed by natural disasters in Afghanistan, focusing on selected communities in priority provinces. The communities will adopt prevention measures and increase agricultural productivity through improved irrigation systems.
According to the State Ministry for Disaster Management, the project entails implementation of disaster risk reduction and irrigation systems, community-based disaster management and capacity building, and providing technical support to the national disaster management system.
Spokesman of Iran Customs Administration (IRICA) Rouhollah Latifi has said that despite some rumors, customs offices of Iran at joint borders with Afghanistan will continue providing their usual services by the end of the current Iranian calendar year (March 20, 2020).
He assured that IRICA will continue its services to ease trade transactions between Iran and Afghanistan and pays specific attention to healthcare issues considering the outbreak of COVID-19.
Latifi added that customs charges are taken only via E-payment systems and exchange of cash and bills are banned at border customs.
As reported, Iran’s trade volume is seeing an 18 percent decline due to the outbreak of coronavirus, known as COVID-19.
A US democratic senator has warned that President Donald Trump may have been “fleeced” in the U.S. peace deal with the Taliban.
Sen. Chris Murphy, who sits on the Senate Appropriations Committee and Foreign Relations Committee, expressed his concerns, as U.S. forces began scaling back their presence in the country.
Under the terms of the agreement, all American and NATO troops could leave the country within 14 months. Initially, the U.S. has agreed to reduce its strength to 8,600 soldiers over 135 days.
But Murphy suggested it was premature to begin withdrawals and warned that the deal was too weak to hold the Taliban to account. “I have been a supporter of negotiations with the Taliban, but the more I learn, the more concerned I become that Trump got fleeced,” Murphy wrote.
A key element of the deal is the Taliban commitment that they will not allow Afghanistan to be used as a safe haven for terrorist groups to plan and launch attacks against the West, as in the case of 9/11.
But Murphy said that the “security guarantees are so vague as to be effectively void. It’s not clear how we will track whether they are indeed renouncing terrorist groups.”
Thousands of migrants, most of them from Afghanistan have rushed to the border between Turkey and Greece after the Turkish government announced on February 28 that it would no longer stop migrants from crossing its border to reach Europe.
Some of the migrants trapped at the border crossing in Pazarkule have been posting on social media about their attempts to cross the River Meriç, which separates Greece and Turkey.
Their videos show young men and families with children living in rough conditions in nearby fields.
Several migrants who tried to cross the border at this location say that many people were sleeping under little more than plastic tarps and keeping warm by small campfires.
Greek authorities announced on March 5 that they had prevented 35,000 people from entering the territory in just five days.
Reports by major media outlets covering the border as well as videos filmed by the migrants themselves show Greek border guards using large amounts of tear gas to push back migrants trying to get through border fences.
Afghan security forces shot dead a would-be suicide attacker before he could reach his target in Kandahar province.
The deputy spokesman of Kandahar Police Abdul Basir Khaksar told Reporterly that security forces shot dead a suicide attacker before he storms the Hawz Abb area of Zheray district at around 10:30am on Tuesday.
Khaksar added that no one was hurt in the incident.
Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) says the commission received no response to its concerns over the release of Taliban prisoners.
“President Ghani spoke about the release of prisoners yesterday in his inauguration. While reassurance is essential for peace talks, the Human Rights Commission has not yet received any response to its concerns about the exchange of prisoners between the Afghan government and the Taliban,” AIHRC said in a tweet.
The commission stressed that it will continue to defend the rights of the Afghan people and call on all parties to be accountable and transparent about the process.
Most veterans of the 18-year war in Afghanistan wouldn’t have predicted this was how the fightback after the attacks of 9/11 would end: with a U.S. peace deal with the Taliban forcing Afghan officials to sit down with the militants and discuss dismantling a government the U.S. helped build.
The fact that the deal hit so many roadblocks in so few days has also fed a sense of numbness among veterans, deepening the sentiment that the war wasn’t worth fighting, as most veterans said in a Pew poll last July.
“I wanted to get out, but I didn’t think we’d get out like that, handing the guys we fought for the last 18 years a victory,” said one long-serving U.S. veteran who recently left Afghanistan after multiple tours, who requested anonymity because he may return again to work there.
Since the signing of the peace deal, he said he’s been having painful discussions with other soldiers who’d fought the Taliban since 2001. “Saying these people who have been committing these horrible crimes, they really aren’t so bad…It’s hard for us to get our heads around,” he said.
It’s also a confusing time for those who lost loved ones in the war. “For surviving families, it’s important that they understand that their loved ones’ life and service had meaning and purpose,” says Bonnie Carroll, who runs the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, better known as TAPS, based in Arlington, Virginia.
Some high-level veterans agree. One former senior U.S. commander praised the deal for breaking the status quo of a never-ending war, but worried that “the Taliban are getting too much legitimacy and at the expense of the Afghan government,” and that the deal puts too much trust in the Taliban to keep up their end of the bargain after U.S. troops have left. “Actually pulling out all our troops in 14 months’ time leaves us with no leverage and severely limits our ability to verify whatever conditions are in the agreement or claims that are made by the Taliban.”
Others welcome the drawdown. Getting down from current troop levels of about 13,000 to 8,600 is heading in the right direction, says the former CIA officer, who counts himself firmly in “get out now” camp. “The young boys who are dying there now don’t even remember 9/11. They were one or two when it happened,” he says. “I don’t like the idea of we’re just going to stay forever, on an ill-defined mission which can only be described as trying to keep a lid on the place so it doesn’t become a staging ground for another big terrorist attack on the West.”
One positive case of the coronavirus was registered in northern Samangan province, the Ministry of Public Health reported on Tuesday, which brings the total number of confirmed cases in Afghanistan to five.
The five patients have been taken to an isolation ward and are being treated, the ministry said.
The previous four positive cases of the infection were registered in western Herat province of Afghanistan. Herat borders neighbouring Iran, which is one of the countries worst affected by coronavirus outside of China, with more than 7,000 cases and dozens of deaths.
On Sunday, public health minister of the country Ferozuddin Feroz said that a 200-bed hospital in Kabul, another hospital in Herat and the third one in Nimroz province has been established for the potential coronavirus patients. He said more hospitals will be established in other provinces if needed.
According to him, 30,000 kits have been provided by the United Arab Emirates for dealing with the coronavirus outbreak and 20,000 are likely to arrive soon.
The United States has called for a Tuesday vote at the UN Security Council to endorse Washington’s deal with the Taliban that is supposed to pave the way to peace in Afghanistan, American diplomats told Aljazeera.
The US military has begun withdrawing troops as part of the pullout agreed in the February 29 agreement with the Taliban.
The request for a UN vote came after negotiations on a draft resolution, diplomats said on Monday.
The deal signed in Qatar is aimed at ending the US’s longest war, fought in Afghanistan since 2001.
President Ashraf Ghani will issue a decree for at least 1,000 Taliban prisoners to be released this week, five official sources told Reuters.
Ghani was sworn in for a second term on Monday, in a ceremony attended by U.S. Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and other international representatives including NATO forces commander Scott Miller.
His political rival Abdullah Abdullah, who contested the election results, held a parallel inauguration ceremony of his own at the Sapidar Palace.
Since last month’s U.S.-Taliban peace plan, there have been nearly 80 attacks in Afghanistan. The violence could derail the deal that calls for U.S. troops to withdraw over the next 14 months.
This comes as Ashraf Ghani and his rival Abdullah Abdullah both claimed that they won the presidential election at dual inauguration ceremonies on Monday in Kabul.
Ghani has declared that he will issue a decree today and the Afghan negotiating team will be finalized today.
A U.S. official says U.S. forces have begun leaving Afghanistan under the first phase of an initial troop withdrawal required under the newly signed U.S.-Taliban peace agreement.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the Associated Press on March 9 that hundreds of U.S. soldiers are now heading out of Afghanistan.
He said the soldiers originally were meant to leave under a rotation plan created before the peace deal was signed in Doha on February 29.
With the peace deal, however, the official said the departing U.S. soldiers will not be replaced.
That means the United States is now effectively moving ahead with an initial reduction of U.S. troops in Afghanistan from about 13,000 to 8,600 soldiers.
The long-term plan is for the United States to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan within 14 months if security conditions are met.
US Special Envoy for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad says Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah have made clear that they are open to negotiations to end the political crisis and that peace and reconciliation is the priority.
In a series of tweets, Khalilzad stated that he will continue to assist Afghan leaders to come to an agreement on an inclusive government.
“I spent much of the last week trying to help President Ashraf Ghani and Dr. Abdullah Abdullah come to an agreement on an inclusive and broadly accepted government. We will continue to assist,” he said.
He added that President Ghani’s announcements that he will issue a decree that will allow for a significant exchange of prisoners and lead in forming a national negotiating team with broad support both provide momentum going into intra-Afghan negotiations.